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What to Do After a Car Accident: Step-by-Step Guide

March 27, 2024

What to Do After a Car Accident: Step-by-Step Guide

Being in a car accident is scary as hell; it can leave you shaken up, confused about what to do next, and unsure of your rights. As car accident lawyers in NYC, we see this all the time – people make mistakes after an accident because they‘re in shock.That’s why I‘m going to lay out a simple step-by-step guide on exactly what to do if you‘re ever in a car crash. Follow these steps and you’ll protect yourself legally and get maximum compensation if the other driver was at fault.

Step 1: Stay Calm and Remain at the Scene

I know, I know – easier said than done when your adrenaline is pumping after a collision. But it’s crucial you stay composed and don’t flee the scene, like this guy who left after a fender bender and got charged with a crime.Take some deep breaths. Remaining calm will help you think clearly and avoid doing anything rash that could jeopardize your case later on.

Step 2: Move to a Safe Area if Possible

If your car is drivable and the accident wasn’t too serioussafely pull over to the side of the road or a parking lot. Put your hazard lights on and set up road flares or warning triangles behind your vehicle.However, if the accident is blocking traffic or anyone is injured, leave your car where it is and wait for police and EMTs to arrive. Your safety is the #1 priority.

Step 3: Call 911

Always notify the police after ANY accident, no matter how minor it may seem. They will create an official accident report which becomes crucial evidence if there are any disputes over who was at fault later.When talking to the 911 operator, provide:

  • Your exact location
  • Whether anyone is injured
  • Description of the vehicles involved

The operator will then send police to the scene and ambulances if needed. Once officers arrive, remain polite and never admit fault – let them determine who caused the accident based on evidence.

Step 4: Gather Evidence at the Scene

While waiting for police, there are several things you should document with your smartphone:

  • Photos/videos of vehicle damage from multiple angles
  • Photos/videos of the entire accident scene including road conditions, traffic signals, etc.
  • Witness statements and contact info from anyone who saw the accident happen
  • The other driver’s license plate, make/model of their vehicle, and insurance details

All of this evidence will help your car accident lawyer build a strong case if the other driver tries to blame you or lowball their settlement offer. Speaking of which…

Step 5: Avoid Discussing Fault

When the other driver approaches youdo not apologize or admit any fault whatsoever. Saying “I’m sorry” can be used against you as an admission of guilt, even if you didn’t cause the crash.Politely exchange just the basic info required by law:

  • Full name and contact details
  • Vehicle info (make, model, license plate, etc.)
  • Insurance provider and policy number

Avoid discussing any other details about the accident – let your lawyer handle that later. If the other driver tries to get you to admit fault, simply say “I’d prefer not to discuss the details until the police report is filed.”

Step 6: Seek Medical Attention ASAP

Even if you feel fine and didn’t sustain any visible injuriesgo get checked out by a doctor ASAP. Symptoms of injuries like whiplash, concussions, and internal bleeding don‘t always show up right away.If you wait to get treated, the insurance company can argue your injuries weren’t caused by the accident – making it harder to get compensation for medical bills. Your health should be the top priority after a crash.

Step 7: Collect Repair Estimates

Once you’ve been cleared by a doctor, take your vehicle to a few different auto repair shops to get estimates on fixing the damage. Get these estimates in writing and keep copies – they‘ll determine how much you‘re owed for repairs or replacement costs.Don’t feel obligated to go with the cheapest estimate either. Pick a repair shop you know and trust to do quality work. The insurance company has to pay the “prevailing rate” in your area, not just the cheapest option.

Step 8: Report the Accident to DMV and Insurers

In New York, you’re legally required to report any accident over $1,000 in damage to the DMV within 10 days using the MV-104 form. This creates an official record of the incident.You’ll also need to promptly notify both your own insurance company and the other driver’s insurer to begin the claims process. When you call, provide:

  • Basic details about the accident
  • The police report number
  • Your policy number
  • Contact info for the other driver

Your insurer will assign a claims adjuster to investigateDon’t give a recorded statement yet – let your lawyer advise you first to avoid saying anything that could reduce your compensation.

Step 9: Consult a Car Accident Lawyer

This is arguably the most important step. Having an experienced car accident attorney on your side immediately after a crash is crucial for protecting your rights and getting maximum compensation.Why? Because insurance companies are not on your side – they’re billion-dollar businesses trying to pay you as little as possible. Their adjusters will look for any reason to minimize your claim, including:

  • Arguing you violated policy terms
  • Claiming your injuries weren’t from the accident
  • Blaming you for the accident to avoid paying
  • Pressuring you to accept a lowball settlement quickly

A skilled lawyer will fight back against these tactics and make sure you get fairly compensated for ALL damages, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Vehicle repairs
  • Rental car costs
  • Pain and suffering

Your lawyer will also deal with the insurance headaches so you can focus on recovering from injuries. Most reputable firms offer free initial consultations, so take advantage!

Step 10: Understand Your Rights

Finally, it‘s important to know your legal rights after a car accident in New York. Some key things to keep in mind:

  • You have a limited time to file a lawsuit – generally 3 years from the accident date, so don’t delay
  • NY is a “no-fault” state for insurance – meaning your own insurer pays for basic damages regardless of fault
  • But you can still sue for serious injuries over the no-fault threshold, like permanent disabilities
  • Contributory negligence reduces awards – if you were partially at fault, your compensation is reduced accordingly
  • Damage caps limit some compensation – NY has limits on payouts for things like pain and suffering

A good car accident attorney will ensure you meet all requirements and deadlines while maximizing your settlement or court award. Don‘t try to navigate this legal minefield alone!

Key Takeaways

To recap, here are the 10 essential steps to take after any car accident in New York:

  1. Remain calm and don’t leave the scene
  2. Move vehicles to safety if possible
  3. Call 911 to report the accident
  4. Gather evidence like photos/videos and witness statements
  5. Avoid admitting any fault when speaking to the other driver
  6. Seek medical attention immediately, even if you feel fine
  7. Get repair estimates for vehicle damage in writing
  8. Promptly report the accident to DMV and insurance companies
  9. Consult an experienced car accident lawyer ASAP
  10. Understand your legal rights and compensation you may be owed

By following this checklist, you’ll be in the best position to get the insurance payout or court award you deserve. Don’t let the insurance company take advantage of you – our NYC car accident lawyers will fight to get you every penny.

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Todd Spodek

Founding Partner

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